Caring for the Caregiver / Respite Care
Almost daily someone comes into our practice looking like “11 miles of bad road.” Not to be insulting – we just have an idea of what this person is going through. It is clear that he or she is a designated caregiver for a loved one and has put the needs of someone else above his or her own.
The role of caregiver is typically gained by default, meaning there is only one family member willing or able to care for another aging or ill loved one. It is not uncommon for a wife to take care of her husband with Alzheimer’s for years at a stretch – doing too much with little assistance. Even adult children sometimes do not recognize all that one “well” parent does for the other.
The combined effects of physical and emotional stress and years of neglecting her own body take their toll. For these reasons, we know that caregivers die first over 30 percent of the time.
Even the professionals can burn out. It may seem counter-intuitive, but there are times when caregivers feel more stressed than the patients do. When they focus on others without practicing self-care, destructive behaviors can surface. Apathy and bottled-up emotions head a long list of symptoms associated with the secondary traumatic disorder now labeled compassion fatigue.
Our colleague Kevin Stowe, Director of Activities at College Square Retirement Community in Conway*, shared his observations and experience:
“When you’re on the clock and you’re devoting yourself to helping, you wear out. None of us can disconnect totally from our work, so we worry at home, too. Compound that with social media, the news, being ever-connected and whatever else in our family life – we simply run out of compassion. “My remedy for replenishment has been disconnecting from the social media scene, since that’s not my career. Finding more quiet time without distraction. Putting more weekend stock in hobbies I’ve neglected. And, personally, investing myself in a Bible study at our church.”
Whether you are a professional or a family caregiver, maintaining your own health is just as important as caring for the patient.
It is estimated that family caregivers provide unpaid services valued at $450 billion per year.
Although family and home caregiving is not new to American culture, its significance for the delivery of healthcare to our aging population is greater than ever before. Family caregivers have become the backbone of the nation’s long-term care system.
Respite Care is designed to provide a break for caregivers – allowing them to step away from the job to run errands, complete chores, go to church, visit friends or simply rest. At its most basic level, it can be a friend or family member sitting with the patient for a few hours. If you are a caregiver and are seeking assistance, some resources include:
• At-home care – usually the easiest on the patient, and can be provided by a friend, family member or a professional non-medical home care provider. Professionals should be licensed and bonded. Also, any respite provider should be trained as to the appropriate actions to take or people to call in the event of an emergency.
IMPORTANT: Normally you should not pay a close friend or family member for providing respite care if you think the patient may need Medicaid assistance to help pay for future nursing home care. Doing so may be deemed an uncompensated transfer and could render the patient ineligible for Medicaid assistance until the expiration of the penalty period caused by the transfer.
• Adult day care
• Hospital outpatient clinics
• Nursing home and hospice organizations
Many respite care resources and payment options exist. View our “Links” page (http://arkelderlaw.com/resources/helpful-links/) for quick access to websites you may find helpful. And please contact our office for additional resources if our recommendations do not meet your needs.
*Per Kevin, “College Square Retirement Community is an Independent Living Community; we don’t have any medical staff. We aren’t really ‘caregivers’ in the same sense as most in the senior care field, but we still oversee happiness! We go out of our way to provide a high level of customer service and care for 100 senior citizens every day.” http://www.collegesquareretirement.com/
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